The Storms of Life, Part 1

I'm not exactly old, but I’m not young either (though I have trouble remembering that a lot of the time). I’ve seen a lot of life. I’ve also seen a fair bit of death. It’s odd, the way life goes... In my twenties and early thirties, I seemed to go to a lot of weddings. Then for a few years I seemed to go to a lot of christenings. These days I seem to go to more funerals than anything else.

I've lost all sorts of folks - a son, my father, uncles, aunts, friends, and acquaintances. As I’ve said before, I don’t think we were designed to deal with death. In a way I wish I could say that I get used to it. But I don’t. And in some ways I don’t want to either.

When someone dies, it rips a hole in me. But I don’t want it not to matter; I don’t want it to be pain-free. I don’t want it to be something which just passes. The scars those losses leave are signs of the love I had for the person. If the scar is deep, and sometimes painful, so be it... It shows that the love was deep too.

Scars show that we are truly alive. They may, superficially, seem ugly. In a way though, they are like medals won for bravery in war; they signify that something horrid has happened, but they are also a testament to something far deeper and more meaningful.

Love and loyalty, empathy and compassion, above all.

The scars show that I can love deeply. They’re also a sign that I have survived. And they’re a sign that I’m strong; stronger than I was before - simply because I’ve battled through again, and continued to love, despite knowing the pain this will inevitably bring, sooner or later.

Grief comes in waves. I’ve learnt that over the years. At first, it’s like being shipwrecked in a stormy sea - the waves crash over you continuously, and you feel as though you’re drowning in a sea of pain, with the wreckage of the ship that was that love floating around you in the waves, and contributing to the battering you’re receiving. You’d give anything to be free from it.

Gradually though, the frequency with which the waves wash over one decreases. It may take weeks, it may take months, but you gradually become aware that you’re above the waves more often than beneath. You’re never quite sure what will trigger a fresh wave - it might be a picture, a place, a song, a smell, a memory. But in between you can breathe, you can function, you can begin to live again.

After still longer, you begin to be able to see them coming. And they aren’t perhaps, quite so high. You can spot them on the horizon - an anniversary; a birthday; Christmas; some significant event which reminds you of the person you’ve lost.

This week, for me, is one of those weeks. It’s Remembrance Day tomorrow, when we remember those who didn’t return from war. We also remember those who did, but who were, and are, scarred by it - physically, emotionally, mentally. I remember my grandfathers, and the First World War; my uncles, and the Second World War; my friends and their part in more recent conflicts. It has always affected me deeply, and I hope it always does. The world might be a more peaceful place if we all considered the consequences of war more deeply. Friday would also have been the 22nd birthday of my stillborn son, Charlie. The events of that week, all those years ago, will always be with me. Some years I sail through, with barely a ripple; at other times, I relive every crashing moment.

So I am sad today.

The waves never stop coming, and somehow I don't really want them to - without those waves it would mean that I’d have forgotten, or ceased to care about, those I loved. I have learnt that I will survive the waves each time. And that other waves will come.

If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

God bless you.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2020